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From The New York Times:

PARIS — Islamist militants seized a foreign-operated gas field in Algeria early Wednesday and took 20 or more foreign hostages, including Americans, according to an Algerian government official and the country’s state-run news agency. The attackers called the move retaliation for the French-led military intervention in neighboring Mali.

Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, told reporters in Washington, “The best information that we have at this time is that U.S. citizens are among the hostages.” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, traveling in Italy, told reporters that the United States would “take all necessary and proper steps” in response to the gas-field seizure, calling it a “terrorist attack.”The exact number of people being held was still far from certain. A top Algerian government official said 20 Islamist militants attacked the gas field and that security services had now “encircled the base” so that “no one can leave.” Concerning the number of hostages, he said that “the situation is confused for the moment,” and that there might be as many as 30. “We don’t have precise figures for now.”


Fighters with links to Al Qaeda’s African affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to both Mauritanian and Algerian news agencies.../blockquote>

MSNBC recently reported that the US confirms that 3 Americans are among the hostages.

AP has a story on it:

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Comment Preferences

  •  The alleged culprit... (10+ / 0-)

    is a long-time Algerian militant named Mokhtar Belmokhtar.  He leads a significant faction of the jihadist group currently known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

    While he has extensive ties to Al Qaeda and its affiliates going back over twenty years, he has a reputation as more of a bandit than a true Al Qaeda leader (i.e. focused on suicide bombings or direct attacks on the West.)  His signature tactic is kidnapping Westerners for ransom, and he's successfully used that ransom money to finance his network.  He's also believed involved in the trafficking of guns and drugs through the region.

    Having said that, he has been directly tied to the North Mali Tuareg insurgency against which France and allied African forces are now directly engaged.  The prospect of an imminent French ground engagement against Ansar Dine insurgents raises the stakes of this hostage crisis immensely.

    Follow Me on Twitter!!/ZeddRebel

    by TarantinoDork on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 12:06:13 PM PST

    •  looks like the Mali offensive is a bust (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ericlewis0, marsanges, Jay C

      French air strikes have already forced them into other excursions.  They need to be crushed quickly.  

      There are very few subjects which do not interest or fascinate me.

      by NYFM on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 12:19:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  slight addendum (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ericlewis0, NYFM, KenBee

      it seems the array of groupings operating there is very complex and I cant say I know much about any of them. However, papers have reported that the actual Tuareg uprising /movement (those who originally swept Mali uthorities from "Azawad") are NOT any longer allied with the islamists. They have themselves been ousted by the islamists; they have dropped their claims to outright secession and are even engaged in reconciliation talks with the Mali government. Again, I know very little, but I thought this sounded hopeful (the split between the tribalists and the islamists).

  •  while I (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ericlewis0, angry marmot

    don´t want to say anything bad about this diarist or his intentions, I must say I´m a bit taken aback by this diary. This event is just a small facet in a broader situation - the war in Mali, the French intervention, and all that is connected to that - which has been going on under the radar screen for moths - but since a week full in the international headlines. It has very much to do with what the fate of Western Africa will be, and even what the fate of Europe will be in a sense, and very little with America. Yet it has caused not one peep here on Daily Kos. And how doew it finally appear here? Though I dont doubt the good intentions of the diarist, all that appears here is "OMG some terrorists have captured 3 Americnas!!" relegating even the other hostages to side roles. This is really laughable. Please people. One can be close minded and navel gazing. We here are that very often too. But please if one does lift the eyes beyond the borders, there´s a world out there that has its own troubles that dont revolve aound the US.

    These hostage takers were after French citizens, a minimal glance at context should make that clear. They seem not to have gotten any.

  •  The attackers are claiming (8+ / 0-)

    41 hostages in all, including 7 Americans (AFP via al-Ahram).

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 12:20:28 PM PST

    •  Yup, MSNBC initially reported 7 (2+ / 0-)

      And AP article doesn't rule out that number either, but MSNBC lowered number to 3. May edit as more comes in.

      I ♥ President Barack Obama.

      by ericlewis0 on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 12:23:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  so they got some (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angry marmot, ericlewis0, KenBee

      thanks I had not yet seen that.

      According to the Islamist spokesman who did not give his name to the two Mauritanian media outlets, the attack was "a reaction to Algeria's flagrant interference in allowing French planes into its airspace to launch raids on northern Mali."

      He called Algeria's attitude "a betrayal for the blood of Algerian martyrs slain by the French colonists."

      thats what its about.

      No matter; this must have been amongst the possibilities that the French had to have considered when they embarked on this intervention. I can not imagine that this will significantly influence their actions. If it would then they should not have stepped in.

  •  what a wimp, if really upset about mali thn should (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    have gone running towards the french guns in mali

    not kidnap innocents in algeria

    the media should start painting the man as a wimp, scardy cat, unmanly, etc PR move to discredit / discourage such acts

    If upset about french army in mali then go charging at the french army guns in mali

    of course that = death for said chargers at the french guns but much braver than wimpy kidnapping of innocents

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